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Florida Universities Set for Major Tuition Increases

Universities are ready to take advantage of a differential tuition bill Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law Monday that would mean students could see a 15 percent increase in their tuition bills.

Florida A&M, the University of North Florida and the University of West Florida have already approved 15 percent tuition spikes. And Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University and New College of Florida are set to do the same.

The university system began pushing a plan last fall that would allow all of the universities to tack an additional tuition increase onto the Legislature-approved tuition increase. Lawmakers approved an 8 percent tuition increase systemwide and the universities can now all put in place an additional 7 percent increase if they so choose.

Florida State University, the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida International University already had the ability to charge the higher tuition.

Presidents across the university system have consistently been pleading for more money from the state, but usually to no avail. This year, the universities saw a slight up tick in funding, but the tuition bill was their biggest victory.

John Delaney, the temporary head of the university system, called it a “sea change” for Florida as the legislative session was wrapping up and all of the presidents have said it will have a huge impact on their universities.

The bill will allow the universities to raise tuition by a total of 15 percent per year until they reach the national average. Tuition has been historically low in Florida, which has drawn students to the system, but caused financial headaches for administrators trying to run high quality universities.

Bill Edmonds, spokesman for the Florida Board of Governors, said that despite the large percentage increase, it actually translates to a minimal amount because the current rates are relatively low.

The increases will likely only have about a 1 percent impact on the university system in the first year, but it could bring in up to $208 million for the 2012 fiscal year.

“We consider this landmark legislation regarding the university system,” Edmonds said. “Florida's public universities have been in the basement for tuition for a long, long time and it has had consequences.”

Edmonds said that in particular, the influx of dollars would help the universities add more faculty positions and counselors to advise students.

“The biggest issue is it gives us resources we need to address fundamental problems,” he said. “One is we just need more faculty. We have the worst faculty to student ratio in the country for public universities.”

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